Saturday, September 06, 2008

Crime and Punishment

I can blame Adrian for pointing me to the great Russian novels. On his recommendation I read The Idiot and a couple of days ago I started Crime and Punishment.

Dostoevsky's novel engages on several levels. I am left with fanboyesque helpless admiration for his multiple skills in psychological exploration, character development and plotting. Most of us would find it difficult to imagine a personal psychological state in which we would carry out a premeditated murder. The St. Petersburg student Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov is someone 'like us' who does just that - so we do. The psychological aftermath is completely gripping - what a page turner!

The novel is set in set in the summer of 1865, when Marxist ideas were circulating around Europe. Dostoevsky was deeply hostile to socialist thinking and his characters offer startlingly modern refutations: (his own mystical and nationalistic alternative is scarcely more satisfactory).

Next stop: Anna Karenina (in the recommended translation!).


The Economist today carries a review of The Lightness of Being: Mass, Ether, and the Unification of Forces by Nobel Prize–winning physicist Frank Wilczek, which I will take a look at. This brings me to CERN.

I missed the BBC4 hour-long programme on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) Thursday evening: we were watching Drowning on Dry Land at the Salisbury Playhouse, which I mentioned in a previous post. It's repeated this evening.

It's interesting watching the collision between the LHC and popular culture. BBC1's "The One Show" headlined with it yesterday evening with a jokey piece about LHC-created mini-black holes destroying the earth. Sir Patrick Moore was wheeled in to ridicule this most unlikely of outcomes.

Perhaps there should be a new competition (like the one William Waldegrave ran in 1993 for the Higgs boson). Write the best short summary for mass consumption as to why it's important to spend £5 billion on the LHC.

How hard can it be?